Pop up advertising is simultaneously the most hated and one of the most effective forms of online advertising. Exit intent popups, generally triggered by specific mouse movements, are rapidly gaining popularity since they specifically target users who are about to abandon the website. On the one hand, the navigation flow is interrupted by an ad that shifts the focus away from the user’s intended action; on the other, when properly executed, exit intent popups can increase conversion, be they sign ups, downloads, increased sales or any other action desired by the website. The line between an effective exit intent pop up and one that is detrimental to business is very thin and can be the difference between gaining new users and decreased revenue due to a decline in returning visitors. The following are 5 ways to guarantee customers will leave a website.

Turnoff #1 - Overdoing it

Many SMBs and bloggers recognize the value of an exit popup as the optimal time to lure a visitor back. However, these are often combined with other popups throughout the site, creating multiple distractions for the user and increasing the chance that the user will abandon the site. Additionally, many sites do not differentiate between users who have elected to stay, after having seen the exit pop up, and those who have not yet seen it, leading them to deliver the same pop up again to an already-converted user. Multiple popups may increase sign ups for newsletters, but ultimately can cause users to leave the site as dissatisfaction compounds due to poor user experience, resulting in a loss of loyalty and, consequently, potential revenue from new and previous customers.

Turnoff #2 - Poorly-Selected Triggers

Exit-intent popups are generally triggered by mouse actions, such as moving the mouse or scrolling. The technology recognizes that the user is about to leave the page and sends a last attempt at converting the user into a customer. However, these triggers are very simplistic: they do not take into consideration page parking, the opening of multiple tabs for comparison between tabs, or parallel browsing for multiple tasks.

Essentially, it is possible that the user was not abandoning the site completely and was merely switching temporarily to another tab. While mouse movement can indicate that the user would like to close the tab, in practice the actual intent may have been looking for more information on the same site or temporarily browsing another tab.

An additional trigger is time spent on site: oftentimes, the popup will appear after a predefined amount of time, such as 10 seconds or one minute. Triggering a popup after a very short amount of time, before the user has had a chance to browse the page and see if the information is relevant to them, can rapidly lead to site abandonment.

Turnoff #3 - Irrelevant Content

If a customer has added items to a cart and then tries to leave the page, the messaging should incentivise the checkout process, not prompt the customer to sign up for a newsletter. Targeting the consumer with irrelevant content will only increase dissatisfaction with the nuisance, decreasing the chance that the customer will return. The customer’s attention has already shifted focus away from the page, therefore a popup that is not relevant to the user’s interest has a very small chance of achieving conversion.

Turnoff #4 - Asking for Too Much Information

Conversion through a pop up should be quick. Visitors should have a minimal investment in entering information, be it signing up for a newsletter or requesting a coupon. Either way, as the number of field that the user is requested to fill out increases, the chances of the popup converting decreases. Email addresses are generally accepted as the only item requested in popups, despite the retargeting options that more information could provide.

Not a turnoff just a goof #5 - Losing the Lead

What good is the best designed popup if the merchant fails to handle the lead and follow up with the potential client?

Effective Solutions

Some of the aforementioned problems have yet be solved by modern technology. However, there are several steps companies can take to maximize conversion while minimizing interruptions and the risk of reduced loyalty.

Do #1 - Targeted Messaging

Popup content must directly correlate to browsing and purchase intent. Special offers and other sales tools should be used when users have indicated purchase intent by browsing items or placing them in their carts. Additionally, offers should be better than what was offered elsewhere on the site as they were insufficient enough the first time. Conversely, consumers who read a blog post, for example, and stayed on the site for more than a minute could be promoted to sign up for a newsletter and to receive special offers.

Do #2 - Killer Copy and Calls to Actions

Whether small or full screen, popups should be concise, straightforward and convey maximum value in the least number of words possible. They should utilize personal pronouns whenever possible to invoke an emotional response that will lead to conversion. Furthermore, calls to action should be clear and compel the user to complete the desired action. An ineffective CTA will reduce the popup to a mere annoyance.

Do #3 - Reduce Repeat Popups

Successful popups lure users into remaining on the website. However, what happens when the user triggers the same action? Ideally, the popup that brought the user back should not appear a second time. If a cart abandonment popup lead the consumer into completing his purchase, he should not view the same popup the next time he tries to leave the site. Similarly, if the user has already signed up for a newsletter, cookies should disable the trigger for future visits.

Do #4 - Follow the Lead

Integrating the action pop-up with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will ensure a proper recording of the lead and categorization of the user intent. Furthermore, using email automation, this lead can be nurtured using an automated mailing scheme That will greatly increase the likelihood of conversion.


Whereas popups are traditionally regarded as the Internet’s original sin, when created correctly they can increase conversion while minimizing abandonment. Relevant content, combined with compelling copy and CTA, can transform a cart abandoner into a buyer, increasing revenue with very little effort. Conversely, poorly targeted popups with irrelevant information will only increase frustration for the consumer, as his session has been interrupted, which could lead to reduced loyalty. Companies should invest time into properly crafting messages that suit their audience at various stages of the purchase cycle to maximize conversion and revenue.